Posted by psgels on 27 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews

I’m not a big fan of moe, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t give these types of series a chance. I’ve been proven wrong often enough times about these types of shows, and there are plenty of series that may look overly chichéd and stereotypical on the outside, yet turn out to be surprising gems on the inside. I was hoping Saki to be the same, and for a while it indeed looked like this was the case, but in the end it unfortunately ended up too much stuck in its own clichés and stereotypes to really develop into something worthwhile.

There are just too many fundamental problems with this series. This series is about Mah-Jong. In preparation for this series, you can clearly see that the creators read through all of the rules of Mah-Jong, they looked up all of the major strategies that can be used to win, but on the other hand it also becomes so obvious that they’ve never actually sat down to play a game, in order to get the feeling of how a game normally progresses.

And so, the matches in this series aren’t decided by strategy, but instead by pure luck. Matches basically revolve around who can pull the biggest Deus ex Machina near the end of every match. These magical powers enable the characters to cheat in all sorts of ways, like becoming invisible, getting extra luck when the rounds are arranged in a particular way, and even blatantly giving all of your opponent crappy hands so that you can do whatever you please. The creators don’t even make use of this. The matches all end in the most predictable ways, with no attempt whatsoever to spice them up beyond their original set-up (which is just a courtesy of the manga it’s based on anyway).

This would have all been forgiven if the characters made up for it. Unfortunately, there too it ultimately disappoints. This series has about thirty named characters, and nearly all of them just end up being one-dimensional clichés and stereotypes, with the few attempts that are made to develop them being the most predictable and clichéd attempts ever, so that doesn’t really help either.

In the end, there are just three characters that actually resemble characters and don’t exist based on their exaggerated quirks, and those are just a bunch of minor side-characters. They definitely manage to spice up the series when they’re in the focus, but they’re just too overshadowed by the lead characters, Saki and Nodoka who form one of the most obvious lesbian pairings I have ever seen. There’s nothing subtle about their romance at all. It’s just a constant onslaught of blushing and strange looks when these two are near each other.

But by far the worst character in this series has to be the only boy in the entire series. This guy is so incredibly obnoxious that he makes every scene he’s in a pain to sit through. His endless fantasies about Nodoka’s bosom just get worse and worse as time goes by, and overall he remains an utterly pointless character. There’s no reason whatsoever to have him in this series!

I recently (read: half an hour ago) realized that this series is quite similar to Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou: both series start out with a flawed premise of lots and lots of moe, seemingly stereotypical characters, magic and huge boobs. And that’s all the more of a shame that YWGM did end up creating something enjoyable with a tongue-in-the-cheek execution and fun chemistry, while Saki kept hanging with a bland and unimaginative execution that always picks the most predictable option to go forward. With one of the most obnoxious soundtracks of the season (I’m not the biggest fan of J-Pop, and it’s music like that that’s exactly the reason why!), it fails to move beyond mediocrity.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 7/10
Setting: 7/10

31 Responses

  1. plickity says:


  2. Aldo-Naris(a) says:

    LOL Wut ?? You give 80 to Yokuwakaru, almost the same that to Eden of the East, but give a 62 to Saki ? And i think that every episode you see serves to flesh out the characters. No, seriously, it almost seems like there is not a single bad episode for you. And out of the blue, 62 to Saki. I’m not a fan of this, but it was better that Shangrila. Meh, opinions, to each its won.

  3. kode-dekka says:

    “To each his own” But I have to agree with you Aldo, at least Saki made sense.

  4. Zodiac Casino says:

    I want to know why Saki’s knees were red the entire series. Then again, i may already know that answer…

  5. d says:

    There’s no reason whatsoever to have him in this series!

    What? Don’t be such a hater! He does the errands, gets the tacos, and plays mahjong. You are just jealous because he is surrounded by girls and you are not. xD

  6. zaeris says:

    In general I think I understand, while I won’t outright say it does enforce the idea you came into the series expecting something else but it was never provided. I wouldn’t really fault the show as evident it’s a more of a pseudo Dragonball version of mahjong anime rather than a normal mahjong anime. With that said I didn’t believe the show wanted a to show viewers a normal game of mahjong but rather something fun equivalent to popular shounen series with flashy effects and power level.

  7. Sniperk says:

    Agreed with Zaeris.
    Personally, I came to watch the show hoping for absolutely nothing.

    It was about Mahjong.
    It was being animated by Gonzo.
    It was about lesbians.

    Nothing good seemed that could come out of it.
    But in the end, I just couldn’t wait every new episode.

    It has it’s charms, and not pretending to be something deep, or world changing, is one of them. It’s just a brainless shounen anime about flashy moves. Only in a mahjong table, instead of the monster around the corner.

  8. Howling-kun says:

    Yet, I had more fun with Saki than any other anime these past two seasons. More than ALL of them.

    It was stated this was a fanservice moe show from the very start and if you’re unpleased with this kind of Deus ex Machina (absolutely a standard in every game anime/manga), you won’t be enjoying Akagi either. In fact, you’ll hate Akagi’s one-dimensional characters even more.
    How’s Saki (Saki) different from Shion (Shion on Ou)? Shion did stuff just as glorious, but instead of labeled as “godly luck”, her skill was “levels to her opponent” and BOTH “controlled the game flow”.
    (Don’t get me wrong, I liked Shion much more too – character-wise the show is much better)
    Also, you clearly brought down the production values because you LOATHE J-Pop. Saki featured an excellent use of CG, the soundtrack is extremely over-the-top, making it as tense and over-blown as TTGL (of course, in it’s own scale), not to mentioned characters mostly look gorgeous and are all pretty sympathetic (only Tacos and the guy were kind of annoying sometimes). This is truthfully belongs in the Top Tier of fanservice shows for me, as it manages to deliver solid entertainment with more than T&A. I don’t know if you play Mahjong, but I almost had a heart attack every Rinshan Kaihou – even if they were predictable and “cheated” for Saki.

    Good job Gonzo, I think I’ll buy the DVDs for the gorgeous hug pillow that comes for free.

    • TryAgain says:

      You can replicate some of Akagi tactics in real life. Most of his analyzing of people move can be done and I saw happen before in my online play against others.
      You know very little about Mahjong if you actually compare them as both the same level as dues ex machina. Please don’t talk shit about shows you know nothing about.Like a fool that talks about go swordsmanship of killing through a show about kendo.

  9. Zodiac Casino says:

    I actually started playing mahjong because of this show, mostly in part to help understand how it all worked. And I think for what it was, it was a quite entertaining show. Especially since i was watching more of the heavy-content shows at the same time.

    And why were Saki’s knees always red? Or do i already know the answer to that?

  10. Reltair says:

    When I first saw Saki, I could see a lot of potential in the series and looked forward to its development. But I was somewhat disappointed in the direction that it took (increasingly crazy win methods akin to Prince of Tennis style).

    It was still entertaining to watch though, so I would rate it higher than a 62.

  11. kalandra says:

    Put it in this perspective :

    Assuming neither series gets a second,

    10 years later, who would still remember Saki? 5 years from now, who would still recommend Saki to their friends?

    Now try the same question for Shangri La. I am sure Shangri La gets a better chance.

    Sure, Saki is entertaining, but its nothing more then fluff produced every season.

    • PVCPipe says:

      It’s 2013 now. Between Saki and Shangri La, I’m pretty sure Saki is more remembered than Shangri La. Saki is still talk more than Shangri La. Have you seen Saki dominance in Saimoe Japan 2012?

  12. zaeris says:

    If it was entertaining and enjoyable why would you not recommend it to someone else?

    I just felt psgel had to wrong reason for watching this series. At a whole a comparison between this and Shion no ou seem quite drastic, while the premise of mahjong are similar there are clear distinct style used and the emphasis are different in both shows. Arguably this is a moe infested fluff show but a good one at that as it offers mores using the term moeru.

    I will just add this in, while saki sported a large cast I believe that everyone in this show was well fleshed out in the 25 episodes as manageable as possible. Every school got to have their own screen time and back story. While it is not much it did get a lot of people into learning mahjong.

  13. juu says:

    I thought the episodes that still follow the manga are quite enjoyable (though nothing great), while the anime-original episodes (the individual tournament) was a lot weaker and rather boring. Leaves a bad last impression for me…

  14. psgels psgels says:

    Like I said, I would not have minded the screwed game mechanics if the characters were enjoyable enough (like what I experienced with Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou and especially Shion no Ou, which was IMO much better in hiding these deus ex machina), but near the end of the series I was just boringly sitting through the series, hoping for it to get finished as soon as possible. I was actually into the series at one point, but I think that during Saki and Koromo’s match, my suspense of disbelief was completely shattered.

    I was indeed first planning to rate this series higher, but as I started writing this review I couldn’t think of any good reason to warrant it this, based on my own enjoyment. I guess it’s also my expectations that were a bit wrong with this series. But yeah, 65 may be a bit too low…

    Oh, and @howling-kun: one of the reasons why I rated thep roduction-values low was indeed that I didn’t like the soundtrack, but also because unlike you I wasn’t really that enamored by the character-designs. From my view, they were just a bit too exaggerated on the moe part.

  15. Nomus says:

    Totally agreed with review. Why the heck did you rise the rating? Now it looks strange. All review is about how awful this thing is, but in the end it gets 70, witch is quite good. After Shion and Kaiji it looks like an insult.

    And kalandra was right: after Shangri it’s even harder to take gonzocrap seriously.

  16. Perrin4869 says:

    Congratulations on actually being able to finish this… I didn’t even manage to get interested in watching the first episode! Did you truly believe there was any chance in hell this could have been good?

  17. Howling-kun says:

    @kalandra: Well I guess I’ll remember Saki forever. There are are only 3 mahjong anime and I recommend them to everyone I play with.

    @psgels: I don’t blame you, since you aren’t a big fan of moe shows. This is a moefan’s paradise: characters look cute and aren’t mentally handicapped.

  18. Anon says:

    Saki is a good moe show where the moe doesn’t really get in the way of the plot. Even with the moe elements, the majority of the time is spent on Mahjong. K-ON is an example of a bad moe show. The moe gets in the way of the show being about a music club. As a result, there’s no progression. You don’t feel like the characters have improved any or any closer to reaching their goal.

  19. Kalandra says:

    Ack! Why did Saki score got increased? I don’t expect you to bend over from peer pressure.

    Its one thing to think this is a good series, its another to rate it better after complains from the fans.

  20. psgels psgels says:

    Kalandra: it’s also one thing to make mistakes. After thinking back, I realized that I indeed may have been a bit too strict and that there were at least parts that I enjoyed. I didn’t change the rating because of peer pressure, but because of my own ideas. I probably would have come to the same conclusion if nobody complained.

  21. Tk007 says:

    I love anime like Tokyo magnitude 8, Guin saga, Phantom, kemono no souja Erin, etc. But somethimes the mood just isn’t right to watch those anime. That is when anime like Saki or Taishou yakyuu musume comes in.

    Saki has a simple setting. It has no deep plotline. It does not have evildoers or villains behind the scene. You don’t have to get too attached to the characters. It’s simply an anime about a group of people playing mahjong in the most animated way possible. It’s just something you watch, be entertained, and forgot about it later. I’ll have to admit that it has kept me entertained for these past few months and found myself eagerly anticipating the next episode during their qualifying tournaments arc. Overall, I’m satisfied with the show for what it is.

    In the end, the score doesn’t really matter. No matter how high or how low the score is, it has nothing to do with my (or your) enjoyment level.

  22. Kalandra says:

    Call me a fanboy, but I don’t get how you like Saki more then say… Lucky Star.

  23. psgels psgels says:

    I guess it’s the matches in the middle of the series, that at least tried to bring in some interestin characters like the invisible girl (who ironically got more background than the lead characters) and the thief girl. Lucky Star on top of being stereotypical was also repetitive, while Saki at least changed.

  24. wouldgettrolledagain says:

    A lower score than Gurren Lagan?

  25. Nomus says:

    I can understand your reasoning. But won’t it be better to rewrite the review then? Because you said nothing good about the show. “It fails to move beyond mediocrity” and “70” don’t connect.^^

  26. Juni says:

    This had a lot of potential, but it really feels like the mahjong games were stupid and lazy.

    On the bright side, I heard that Legend of Koizumi is getting an anime!

  27. Anonomyous says:

    Its now 2011 and i just rewatched Saki and it was just as fun.

    The ridiculous Koromo match and Koromo’s inner darkness contrasted with her childish ways as well as the silliness of Saki seemingly afraid but actually just wanting to go to the toilet.

    This is a fun series which i would definitely recommend above shangrila.

  28. elior1 says:

    saki will get a second season next year

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  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Oct 9. 2015 02:09 AM)
    @Kaiser Sunny looks interesting but I’ll be honest, when I say Slice-of-Life I actually mean Cute-Girls-Doing-Cute-Things.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Oct 9. 2015 02:07 AM)
    @Kaiser I actually haven’t seen Black Mass.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 9. 2015 12:57 AM)
    These new Batman shorts called ‘Batman of Shanghai’ are pretty awesome:
    Props to Wolf Smoke Studios for the style and execution. I think this borrowed a lot from the Studio 4°C segment of the Batman: Gotham Knight anthology series. I haven’t been this entertained by a Batman cartoon since the original Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 11:09 PM)
    I have to finish the world is mine someday…and read all of Yamamoto Naoki’s works, looks like some good obscure seinen there.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:52 PM)
    @Realist: Slice of life fan, you’ll want to go off and read Taiyou matsumoto’s work, Sunny being one of them.
  • Kevin
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:50 PM)
    @ninjarealist Ha u that one nigga that jet lol nice way to sneak back, I missed you. Remember me?
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:48 PM)
    @Realist: I imagine you will be seeing black mass?
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:47 PM)
    @Realist: Oh by the way I remember ages ago you recommended Meserine to me, not the biggest gangster fan out there and this did suffer from the usual issues of the bipic format but some great action bits in it =) and Vincent Cassel doing what he does best.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:45 PM)
    @Realist: Whatever name you prefer is fine. Though its Kaiser now so we may as well use that.
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Oct 8. 2015 10:28 PM)
    @Kaiser/Emma (do you prefer to go by Kaiser now?) Punpun is the best, but I don’t see it getting adapted any time soon. As someone who personally loves slice-of-life, I love Dead Demons.

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